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Ole Miss lands historic recruiting class

BBVA Compass Bowl Football AP

(Below is Ole Miss’ press release on the players added as part of its 2013 recruiting class.)

OXFORD, Miss. – A flurry of excitement surrounded Ole Miss’ Indoor Practice Facility on Wednesday morning as National Letters of Intent from several of the nation’s top high school prospects flooded in.

Ole Miss became the talk of college football for what Hugh Freeze and his staff were able to accomplish on National Signing Day, luring in a consensus top-10 signing class in just their second year at the helm.

The major recruiting services class rankings currently list Ole Miss at No. 2 (247Sports), No. 5 (ESPN), No. 6 (MaxPreps), No. 7 (Rivals) and No. 9 (Scout).

Eleven high school All-Americans, including the nation’s top overall prospect in Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga.), chose to sign on with Freeze and the Rebels in a historic day for the football program.

“I think today has the possibility of being a program changer,” Freeze said. “Obviously, it’s all on paper right now. We’ll start having to manage expectations now. We’ll still be in the second year of our journey together, but I do think we took a huge step forward today on that journey toward being where we all want to be, and that’s competing for an SEC West championship. We’re thrilled with today.”

The Rebels didn’t just have the college football world abuzz. At one point Wednesday morning, Ole Miss was trending worldwide on Twitter, and it was reported that the Rebels were even the hot topic in the Miami Heat locker room. LeBron James had this to say on his Twitter account: “Ole Miss ain’t messing around today! Big time recruits coming in. SEC is crazy.”

In addition to Nkemdiche, who is the nation’s No. 1 defensive end, Ole Miss reeled in the country’s No. 1 offensive tackle in Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla.), the No. 1 wide receiver in Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill.) and the No. 2 safety in Tony Conner (Batesville, Miss.). That quartet highlights a class that includes 16 players rated 4 stars or better by the various recruiting services.

“Our staff – I think we have some of the rising stars in this profession in the way they went about recruiting and building relationships over the course of a year and executing our 12-month plan,” Freeze said. “I thought they were pretty flawless in that in most regards. Also, our players – I can’t give them enough credit. They sold our program.”

The Rebels pulled in prospects from eight states, including Mississippi (eight), Georgia (six), Tennessee (four), Alabama (three), Texas (three), Florida (two), Illinois (one) and Louisiana (one).

By position, the Rebels welcome to the program a balanced class of four offensive linemen, four running backs, three defensive backs, three defensive linemen, three wide receivers, three tight ends, three athletes, two quarterbacks, two linebackers and a kicker.

Nkemdiche will join his older brother, sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, on the Rebel roster. Denzel earned All-SEC honors as a redshirt-freshman in 2012 while leading Ole Miss to a turnaround 7-6 season and a victory in the BBVA Compass Bowl. The Rebels were just 2-10 and 0-8 in SEC play in 2011 before Freeze’s arrival.

Tunsil is regarded as the third-best overall prospect in the country by 247Sports.com, Treadwell is rated the nation’s fifth-best player by Rivals.com, and Conner is ranked 24th by MaxPreps and ESPN.com. Other signees among the nation’s top 150 include OL Austin Golson (Prattville, Ala.), RB Kailo Moore (Rosedale, Miss.) and RB Mark Dodson (Memphis, Tenn.).

The Ole Miss class is littered with All-Americans. In addition to all of the previously mentioned players, Ole Miss welcomes SuperPrep All-Americans QB Ryan Buchanan (Jackson, Miss.) and RB Jordan Wilkins (Cordova, Tenn.), Semper Fidelis All-Americans TE A.J. Jackson (Hampton, Ga.) and CB David Kamara (Loganville, Ga.) and MaxPreps All-American K Andy Pappanastos (Montgomery, Ala.).

Freeze was eager to point out the depth of the class, not just the headliners.

“One of the strengths of our class is those 4-star and high 3-stars that we’ve got,” Freeze said.

One such player he singled out was 3-star WR Derrick Jones (Eupora, Miss.).

“Derrick Jones may be one of the hidden gems of this class,” Freeze said. “The guy’s a phenomenal athlete. I’ve seen him play basketball. He plays above the rim. I think he can play a lot of places for us from safety to receiver.”

Freeze also mentioned others like TE Evan Engram (Powder Springs, Ga.) and in-state offensive linemen Davion Johnson (Byhalia) and Daronte Bouldin (Canton) that could surprise people despite not being the most highly ranked prospects in the class.

The Rebels received 22 high school signatures on Wednesday to go with three junior college players and three high schoolers that had already signed. One of those junior college recruits, DT Lavon Hooks (Atlanta, Ga.), is rated by 247Sports.com as the top overall JUCO prospect in the country. Ole Miss also welcomed back ATH Nick Brassell (Batesville, Miss.), who was a starter on both sides of the ball as a freshman before attending East Mississippi Community College this past fall.

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 28 members of Ole Miss’ 2013 recruiting class.)

Quincy Adeboyejo

WR | 6-3 | 180 | Cedar Hill HS | Cedar Hill, Texas

HIGH SCHOOL: Rated a 4-star recruit, the No. 42 wide receiver in the nation and the No. 43 recruit in Texas by Rivals.com … Rated a 3-star recruit by Scout.com, 247Sports.com and ESPN.com … A member of USA Football’s Under-19 national team that competed at the 2013 International Bowl … Associated Press All-State honorable mention selection after recording 91 catches for 1,265 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior … Led Cedar Hill to the Texas Class 5A Division 2 state title game … Dallas All-Area second team pick by the Dallas Morning News … Coached in high school by Joey McGuire.

Trey Bledsoe

ATH | 6-2 | 190 | Grenada HS | Grenada, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: Rated a 3-star recruit by Rivals.com and ESPN.com … Tabbed the No. 13 recruit in Mississippi and the No. 116 athlete in the nation by ESPN.com … Listed as the No. 16 recruit in Mississippi by Scout.com … Named a top 40 recruit in the state by The Clarion-Ledger … Selected to play in the Bernard Blackwell All-Star Game … Played in just seven games as a senior due to a broken collarbone, but caught 35 passes for 477 yards and five touchdowns … As a junior, totaled 27 receptions for 440 yards with six touchdowns on offense and 30 tackles with three interceptions on defense … Also played basketball … Coached in high school by Lamar Pitcock.

Daronte Bouldin

OL | 6-6 | 310 | Canton HS | Canton, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: Listed as a 3-star recruit and the No. 72 offensive tackle in the country by ESPN.com … Scout.com rated him as the 49th-best offensive tackle in the nation and the No. 6 overall prospect in Mississippi … Second team All-State pick by The Clarion-Ledger and the Mississippi Association of Coaches … Ranked the No. 9 in-state prospect on The Clarion-Ledger’s 10 Most Wanted and also named a member of the publication’s Dandy Dozen … Led Canton to the MHSAA Class 5A state playoffs … Participated in the Bernard Blackwell All-Star Game … Coached in high school by Peter Brown.

Nick Brassell

ATH | 6-1 | 180 | East Mississippi CC | Batesville, Miss.

JUNIOR COLLEGE: Competed as a sophomore for East Mississippi Community College under the direction of head coach Buddy Stephens … Rated 4 stars and the No. 13 JUCO prospect in the nation by 247Sports.com … A 4-star JUCO recruit by ESPN.com and Rivals.com … Rated the No. 2 JUCO prospect in the state by The Clarion-Ledger … MACJC first team All-State selection … Helped EMCC to an 8-2 record and the MACJC North Division championship … Caught 48 passes for 663 yards and six touchdowns, while returning six kicks for 130 yards and six punts for 25 yards … Made four tackles with two pass deflections as a defensive back … Had 12 catches for 191 yards and a TD in the semifinal playoff game against Copiah-Lincoln … 2011 (OLE MISS): Played in 12 games with seven starts (six at WR, one at CB) … First Rebel to start on offense and defense in the same season since 1988 … Second on the team in receptions (24), receiving yards (336) and TD catches (2) … Recorded 22 receptions for 290 yards in SEC play … Finished fourth among SEC freshmen in yards per catch (14.0) … Posted 14 tackles and five PBUs at cornerback … Earned first letter … vs. BYU (9/3): Earned the starting nod at flanker in his first collegiate game … Rushed for -1 yards on two carries … vs. Southern Illinois (9/10): Caught his first career pass for 6 yards and also rushed once for a 12-yard gain … at Vanderbilt (9/17): Saw first action on defense and made one tackle, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and broke up the first two passes thrown his way as a cornerback … vs. Georgia (9/24): Caught two passes for 52 yards and rushed for 14 yards on two carries … Returned his first career punt for an 84-yard touchdown … Also made one tackle as a cornerback … at Fresno State (10/1): Caught one pass for 40 yards and rushed for 14 yards on two carries … Also recorded two tackles and a pass breakup as a cornerback … vs. Alabama (10/15): Had a career-best game on offense and defense, catching four passes for 101 yards, including a career-long 59-yard reception that set up the only touchdown of the game for the Rebels … Also recorded five tackles (all solo) at cornerback … vs. Arkansas (10/22): Caught a career-high eight passes for 70 yards and rushed five times for 17 yards, while recording one tackle and one pass breakup on defense … at Auburn (10/29): Caught a team-high four passes for 32 yards and his first career touchdown–a 10-yard reception … Also rushed four times for 19 yards and made one tackle … at Kentucky (11/5): Made first career start on defense, recording three tackles (one solo), including 0.5 TFL on an assisted sack, and a pass breakup … Also caught three passes for 40 yards and a touchdown while rushing once for 56 yards … vs. LSU (11/19): Caught one pass for a loss of five yards, while rushing once for a loss of 11 yards … Also returned five kickoffs for 93 yards … at Mississippi State (11/26): Returned one kickoff for 18 yards and rushed for 11 yards on three carries … HIGH SCHOOL: A U.S. Army, PrepStar and SuperPrep All-America selection … Listed No. 2 on The Clarion-Ledger’s Top 10 Most Wanted list and was a member of the paper’s Dandy Dozen squad … Earned first team All-State honors from The Clarion-Ledger and was a first team Class 6A All-State pick by the Mississippi Association of Coaches as a senior … A member of the Rivals100 and rated the No. 51 player in the nation by Rivals.com … Ranked the No. 1 player in Mississippi and the No. 7 wide receiver in the nation by Rivals.com … Listed No. 24 on the Mobile Press-Register Super Southeast 120 … Rated the No. 7 wide receiver and the No. 56 overall player in the nation by Scout.com … Listed as the No. 29 wide receiver in the nation by ESPN.com … Rated the No. 1 player in Mississippi by SuperPrep … Participated in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic as a senior … Posted 52 receptions for 875 yards and 13 TDs as a senior … Recorded 62 catches for 1,272 yards and 16 TDs as a junior … Won Class 6A state title as a senior and helped squad to Rivals.com High School National Championship as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation … Claimed three state titles in high school … Coached in high school by Lance Pogue.

Eugene Brazley

RB | 5-10 | 180 | G.W. Carver HS | New Orleans, La.

HIGH SCHOOL: Listed as a 4-star recruit, the No. 38 running back in the nation and No. 20 prospect from Louisiana by ESPN.com … Rated the No. 26 running back in the nation and No. 13 prospect from Louisiana by 247Sports.com … Rated the No. 14 all-purpose back in the country by Rivals.com … Tom Lemming lists him as the 10th-best wingback in the nation … Listed No. 31 on the Times-Picayune’s Nifty 50 … All-State honorable mention by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association … Also received All-District 9-2A and All-New Orleans Area small school honors … Rushed for 1,040 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior, while also making 18 catches for 279 yards and three TDs … Led G.W. Carver to the LHSAA Class 2A state quarterfinals … As a junior, rushed for 487 yards and six TDs and caught 13 passes for 149 yards … Had 342 rushing yards and four TDs as a sophomore and 466 yards and five TDs as a freshman … Coached in high school by Bryon Addison.

Ryan Buchanan

QB | 6-4 | 205 | Jackson Prep | Jackson, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: A SuperPrep All-America selection … Listed as a 4-star recruit by ESPN.com, Scout.com and Rivals.com … Rated the No. 15 pocket passer in the nation and third-best player in Mississippi by ESPN.com … Rated the No. 19 pro-style QB by Rivals.com and the No. 32 QB in the country by Scout.com … A member of the ESPN 300, ranking No. 193 overall … Rated the No. 3 player in Mississippi by Scout.com and No. 5 by Rivals.com … Listed No. 6 on The Clarion-Ledger’s 10 Most Wanted and a member of the publication’s Dandy Dozen … All-State first team pick by the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools and second team by The Clarion-Ledger as a senior … Passed for 1,468 yards and 22 touchdowns while leading Jackson Prep to the MAIS-AAA Division 1 state championship … Participated in the MAIS All-Star Game … Led Prep to a state runner-up finish as a junior, passing for 1,326 yards and 14 TDs and rushing for 433 yards in his first season as the starting QB … Also played basketball … Coached in high school by Ricky Black.

Tony Conner

S | 6-2 | 205 | South Panola HS | Batesville, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: An Under Armour and SuperPrep All-America selection … Rated a 5-star prospect by Scout.com and 247Sports.com … Listed as the No. 2 safety in the nation by Tom Lemming, 247Sports.com and ESPN.com … Rated the top prospect in Mississippi by Scout.com and ESPN.com … Rated the No. 24 overall recruit in the nation by MaxPreps and ESPN.com, No. 25 by 247Sports.com and No. 31 by Scout.com … Listed No. 2 on The Clarion-Ledger’s 10 Most Wanted and a member of the publication’s Dandy Dozen … Helped South Panola to three Class 6A state championships in his four years as a starter … Named Mississippi’s Mr. Football and first team All-State by The Clarion-Ledger as a senior … Named Class 6A Defensive Player of the Year by the Mississippi Association of Coaches … Recorded 74 tackles with three interceptions and 19 passes defended to lead the Tigers to a state title as a senior … Had seven tackles, two TFLs and a pass breakup in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … Three-time Mississippi Association of Coaches All-State honoree, including as a running back his junior season when he rushed for 1,472 yards and 22 touchdowns … Posted 23 tackles and two interceptions as a junior … Coached in high school by Lance Pogue.

Mark Dodson

RB | 5-10 | 193 | Whitehaven HS | Memphis, Tenn.

HIGH SCHOOL: 2012 Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year … Led Whitehaven to a 15-0 record and the 2012 Tennessee 6A state title a year after finishing runner-up … Rated a 4-star recruit by all of the major scouting services … Ranked the nation’s No. 5 all-purpose back and No. 149 overall prospect by Rivals.com … Ranked the No. 13 RB in the country by Tom Lemming, No. 22 by 247Sports.com, No. 26 by ESPN.com and No. 35 by Scout.com … Rated the No. 5 player in Tennessee by Rivals.com, No. 7 by ESPN.com and No. 8 by 247Sports.com … A first team Class 6A All-State selection by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association as a senior … District 16-AAA Player of the Year … Rushed for 3,295 yards and 37 touchdowns as a senior … Ran for 318 yards and five TDs in the state championship game against Maryville, scoring the 2-point conversion that won the game in overtime … Finished his prep career as the all-time leading rusher in Shelby County history with nearly 7,000 yards … Played in the City of Memphis All-Star Game … Rushed for 2,100 yards on 110 carries with 28 TDs as a junior en route to TSWA 6A All-State honors … Finalist for the 2011 Tennessee Mr. Football Class AAA Back award … Rushed for 1,500 yards and 22 TDs as a sophomore … Coached in high school by Rodney Saulsberry.

Evan Engram

TE | 6-3 | 210 | Hillgrove HS | Powder Springs, Ga.

HIGH SCHOOL: Listed as a 3-star recruit and the No. 22 tight end in the nation by Scout.com … Rated the No. 27 TE in the country by ESPN.com … Named first team All-State as a senior by the Georgia Sportswriters Association and the Associated Press … All-State honorable mention by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution … Hauled in 40 catches for 975 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior … Caught 18 passes for 300 yards and four touchdowns as a junior, helping Hillgrove go 11-1 and advance to the second round of the state playoffs … Caught two touchdowns in the Cobb County All-Star Senior Bowl … Coached in high school by Phillip Ironside.

Austin Golson

OL | 6-6 | 290 | Prattville HS | Prattville, Ala.

HIGH SCHOOL: A U.S. Army and SuperPrep All-America selection … Tabbed a 4-star prospect by all the major recruiting services … Rated the 52nd-best prospect in the nation and No. 3 offensive tackle by ESPN.com … Ranked No. 118 overall and the eighth-best OT by Rivals.com … Ranked the No. 4 recruit in Alabama by ESPN.com and No. 8 by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com … Rated No. 10 on AL.com’s A-List of top senior football players in Alabama … Played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … Nominated for the AHSAA Class 6A Lineman of the Year award … Two-time Class 6A All-State first teamer by the Alabama Sports Writers Association … Helped Prattville claim the Class 6A state title his junior season, paving the way for an offense that racked up 3,458 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns … Coached in high school by Chad Anderson.

Bobby Hill

DB | 6-0 | 165 | Colquitt County HS | Moultrie, Ga.

HIGH SCHOOL: Rated a 3-star recruit and the No. 93 cornerback in the country by Scout.com … Named a second team All-State pick as a wide receiver by the Georgia Sportswriters Association and Associated Press as a senior … Led Colquitt County to the semifinals of the 2012 Class 6A state playoffs while making 78 catches for 1,046 yards and six touchdowns … Led Colquitt County to the semifinals as a junior, as well, racking up 40 catches for 880 yards and eight TDs … Coached in high school by Rush Propst.

Lavon Hooks

DT | 6-4 | 290 | Northeast Mississippi CC | Atlanta, Ga.

JUNIOR COLLEGE: Played two seasons at Northeast Mississippi Community College under head coach Ricky Smither … NJCAA Honorable Mention All-American as a sophomore … Among all JUCO prospects in the nation, rated No. 1 by 247Sports.com, No. 11 by Scout.com and No. 15 by ESPN.com … Tabbed the nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle by JCGridiron.com … Rated the No. 1 JUCO prospect in the state by The Clarion-Ledger … Selected first team All-State and All-Region XXIII and the state’s Most Valuable Defensive Lineman by the MACJC … Tied for second in the state and region with 9.5 sacks and ranked second among all JUCO players in the nation with 20.5 tackles for loss … Tallied 51 total tackles and had three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries … Recorded 30 tackles, 3.0 sacks and 3.5 TFLs as a freshman … Also played basketball at Northeast, leading the conference in rebounding as a freshman … Spent his first semester of junior college playing basketball for Marion Military Institute (Marion, Ala.) … HIGH SCHOOL: Graduated from Meadowbrook High School in Norcross, Ga., playing football and basketball there … Averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds for the hoops team as a senior … Participated in football and basketball at Brookwood High School (Snellville, Ga.) in ninth and 10th grades.

A.J. Jackson

TE | 6-6 | 240 | Lovejoy HS | Hampton, Ga.

HIGH SCHOOL: Selected as a Semper Fidelis All-American … Rated the nation’s 15th-best tight end by Tom Lemming, 16th by 247Sports.com, 22nd by Rivals.com and 23rd by Scout.com … A consensus 3-star prospect … Listed the No. 33 prospect in Georgia by 247Sports.com, No. 38 by the Macon Telegraph and No. 39 by Rivals.com … Member of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Super 75 … Named a second team All-State tight end by the Georgia Sportswriters Association and Associated Press … An All-Region 2-6A first team pick at wide receiver … Led Lovejoy to the Georgia Class 6A state championship game as a junior and senior … Caught 16 passes for 151 yards and four touchdowns as a junior … Also served as Lovejoy’s long snapper … Played in the 2011 AT&T Georgia Junior Bowl … Coached in high school by Al Hughes.

Davion Johnson

OL | 6-4 | 315 | Byhalia HS | Byhalia, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: Rated a 3-star prospect by all the major recruiting services and the No. 39 offensive tackle in the country by Scout.com … Listed as the No. 68 offensive guard in the nation by 247Sports.com and the No. 84 offensive tackle by ESPN.com … Scout.com ranks him the seventh-best player in Mississippi, while ESPN.com has him 12th and Rivals.com 13th … Listed among the top 40 recruits in the state by The Clarion-Ledger and a member of the publication’s Dandy Dozen … Led Byhalia to the MHSAA Class 3A state quarterfinals … Played in the Bernard Blackwell All-Star Game … Coached in high school by John Danley.

Derrick Jones

WR | 6-2 | 185 | Eupora HS | Eupora, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: Tabbed a 3-star prospect by all the major recruiting services … Rated the 61st-best wide receiver in the country by Rivals.com and No. 89 by Scout.com … Listed as the ninth-best recruit in Mississippi by Scout.com and ESPN.com … Listed among the top 40 recruits in the state by The Clarion-Ledger … Caught a 41-yard touchdown pass in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … Named a first team All-State receiver by The Clarion-Ledger and the Mississippi Association of Coaches … Caught 44 passes for 975 yards and 15 touchdowns to help Eupora reach the Class 2A state title game … Also had 39 tackles and six interceptions on defense … All-District selection in football and basketball … Coached in high school by Junior Graham.

David Kamara

CB | 5-10 | 185 | Grayson HS | Loganville, Ga.

HIGH SCHOOL: Selected as a Semper Fidelis All-American … Rated the No. 70 cornerback in the nation by Rivals.com and No. 85 by ESPN.com … A 3-star recruit according to Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN.com … Named to the Gwinnett Daily Post All-County third team as a senior after helping Grayson win the Region 8-6A championship … Helped Grayson win the Class 5A state title and compile a 15-0 record en route to a No. 4 ranking by USA Today his junior season when he posted 59 tackles and four interceptions … Coached in high school by Mickey Conn … High school teammate of Rebel All-SEC linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and fellow Ole Miss signee Robert Nkemdiche

Devante Kincade

QB | 6-1 | 185 | Skyline HS | Dallas, Texas

HIGH SCHOOL: Rated a 4-star recruit by ESPN.com and Scout.com … Listed as the 12th-best dual-threat quarterback in the nation by ESPN.com and No. 18 by 247Sports.com … Scout.com ranks him as the 26th-best QB overall … Tom Lemming has him as the No. 19 combo QB … Ranked the No. 38 prospect in Texas by ESPN.com … A member of the ESPN 300 … MVP of the 2012 Dallas Elite 11 regional camp and one of 25 finalists for the national Elite 11 camp … The District 9-5A MVP and an All-State honorable mention pick by the Associated Press as a senior … Completed 178-of-281 passes for 2,856 yards, 38 touchdowns and eight interceptions, while rushing for 861 yards and 12 TDs during his final prep campaign … Was a second team All-State pick as a junior when he led Skyline to the Class 5A state semifinals and passed for 3,270 yards, 37 TDs and eight picks while rushing for 857 yards and 17 scores … Passed for 1,627 yards with 17 TDs and seven picks as a sophomore … Coached in high school by Reginald Samples.

Quadarias Mireles

ATH | 5-11 | 185 | Hinds CC | Delray Beach, Fla.

JUNIOR COLLEGE: Played two seasons at Hinds Community College under head coach Gene Murphy … Rated the No. 8 JUCO prospect in the nation by ESPN.com … Rated a 4-star JUCO prospect by ESPN.com and 3-star by Scout.com, Rivals.com and 247Sports.com … Two-time MACJC All-State selection … As a sophomore, led Hinds in receptions (38), kickoff returns (11) and kickoff return yards (204) en route to 828 all-purpose yards … Rushed the ball 47 times for 259 yards and two TDs and added 365 receiving yards and two receiving TDs … As a freshman, hauled in 45 catches for 703 yards and had 10 rushes for 110 yards … HIGH SCHOOL: Rated the No. 85 WR in the nation by Scout.com … Ranked the No. 94 WR in the country by ESPN.com … Caught 26 passes for 426 yards and four TDs as a senior … Also ran for 172 yards and one TD … Caught 17 passes for 341 yards and two TDs as a junior … Coached in high school by Andre Thaddeus.

Herbert Moore

DT | 6-2 | 330 | Memphis East | Memphis, Tenn.

HIGH SCHOOL: Listed as the nation’s 56th-best defensive tackle by Rivals.com and 59th by ESPN.com … A consensus 3-star recruit … Rated the No. 16 prospect in Tennessee by Rivals.com and No. 17 by ESPN.com … Selected to play for Team USA Football at the 2012 IFAF Under-19 World Championship … Played in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl All-Star Game and the City of Memphis All-Star Game following his senior year … Named All-District 16-AAA first team … Recorded 54 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, four sacks, four fumble recoveries and one defensive touchdown as a senior … Had 46 tackles and eight sacks as a junior … Coached in high school by Marcus Wimberly.

Kailo Moore

RB | 5-10 | 190 | West Bolivar HS | Rosedale, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: Selected as a Semper Fidelis and SuperPrep All-American … Rated a 4-star prospect by all the major recruiting services … Listed as the sixth-best all-purpose back and No. 93 overall recruit in the nation by 247Sports.com … Listed as the No. 10 running back in the country by Tom Lemming and No. 19 by Scout.com and ESPN.com … Member of the Scout 300 and ESPN 300 … Played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … Listed No. 4 on The Clarion-Ledger’s 10 Most Wanted and a member of the publication’s Dandy Dozen … Earned first team All-State honors from The Clarion-Ledger and the Mississippi Association of Coaches as both a junior and senior … Rushed for 1,218 yards and scored 18 touchdowns while leading West Bolivar to the quarterfinals of the Class 2A state playoffs as a senior … Also had three interceptions on defense … As a junior, rushed for 1,470 yards and 19 TDs, leading the Eagles to a 15-1 record and the MHSAA Class 2A state championship … Set a school record with five TDs in one game … Coached in high school by Henry Johnson … Also a standout sprinter on the track, he was named Mississippi’s Mr. Track and Field by The Clarion-Ledger as a junior … Competed in the 100 meters and 200 meters at the 2011 USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships … Eleven-time state 2A champion during his high school track career … Won the state 2A 100-meter dash three times and the 200 twice, including as an eighth grader … Best times of 10.30 in the 100 and 21.22 in the 200.

Christian Morgan

TE | 6-4 | 255 | Prestonwood Christian Academy | Plano, Texas

HIGH SCHOOL: A 4-star prospect and the No. 11 TE in the nation according to Scout.com … Ranked the No. 12 TE in the nation by Tom Lemming, No. 16 by Rivals.com and No. 24 by 247Sports.com … Ranked the No. 12 TE-Y by ESPN.com … Rivals.com lists him as the No. 55 player in the state of Texas … A converted offensive lineman known primarily for his blocking ability, but still caught 31 passes for 497 yards and five TDs as a senior … Had 16 catches for 226 yards as a junior … Coached in high school by Chris Cunningham.

Robert Nkemdiche

DE | 6-5 | 270 | Grayson HS | Loganville, Ga.

HIGH SCHOOL: The consensus No. 1 overall recruit and top defensive end in the nation … An Under Armour, USA Today, MaxPreps and SuperPrep All-America selection as a senior … Also earned All-America honors from USA Today as a junior … Three-time All-State selection by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Associated Press and Georgia Athletic Coaches Association … Racked up 41 career sacks during his high school career … Named the Gwinnett Daily Post County Defensive Player of the Year as a senior after recording 59 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks to help Grayson win the Region 8-6A championship … Led a defense that allowed only 11 points a game … Also rushed for 235 yards and 10 touchdowns on offense … Tabbed the All-Class Player of the Year (AJC, Associated Press), Gwinnett Daily Post County Defensive Player of the Year and Touchdown Club of Gwinnett Athlete of the Year after his junior season in which he led Grayson to a 15-0 record, Class 5A state title and a No. 4 national ranking by USA Today … Posted 59 tackles and 18 sacks as a junior, while rushing for 528 yards and 17 touchdowns … Played in the AT&T Georgia Junior Bowl … Younger brother of the Rebels’ All-SEC linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche … High school teammate of fellow Ole Miss signee David Kamara … Coached in high school by Mickey Conn.

Andy Pappanastos

K | 5-11 | 180 | Trinity Presbyterian | Montgomery, Ala.

HIGH SCHOOL: Named an All-American by Kohl’s Kicking and MaxPreps U.S. Air Force … Three-time Class 3A All-State selection … Set the Alabama high school career record for field goals made with 48, which was two shy of the national record … His 279 career kicking points scored are third all-time in Alabama high school history … Named All-Metro 1A-4A Player of the Year by the Montgomery Advertiser … Named the Montgomery QB Club Private School Player of the Year … Four-year starting kicker and three-year starting safety for Trinity … A two-year starter and first team All-Metro pick in soccer … Coached in high school by Randy Ragsdale.

Marcus Robinson

LB | 6-4 | 210 | Memphis East HS | Memphis, Tenn.

HIGH SCHOOL: Ranked the No. 26 inside linebacker in the country by Rivals.com and the No. 36 outside linebacker by Scout.com … A consensus 3-star recruit … Listed as the No. 13 player in Tennessee by Rivals.com, No. 18 by 247Sports.com and No. 19 by ESPN.com … Named a Class 5A All-State first team LB by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association as a senior … Played in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl All-Star Game and the City of Memphis All-Star Game following his senior year … Named All-District 16-AAA first team … Recorded 84 tackles and two interceptions on defense and 12 catches for 234 yards and three touchdowns on offense as a senior … Had 92 tackles, 13 TFLs, four forced fumbles and an interception as a junior … Invited to the 2012 Nike football combine “The Opening” … Also played basketball … Coached in high school by Marcus Wimberly.

Ray Ray Smith

LB | 6-3 | 210 | Florence HS | Florence, Ala.

HIGH SCHOOL: Listed as a 3-star prospect by all the major recruiting services and the No. 72 outside linebacker in the country by ESPN.com … Rated the 20th-best player in Alabama by Rivals.com and 24th by ESPN.com … Played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … Named a first team Class 4A-6A All-State linebacker by the Times Daily and Class 6A honorable mention by the Alabama Sports Writers Association … Made 88 tackles with 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks as a senior … Led Florence to the AHSAA Class 6A state playoffs … Also played basketball and competed in the javelin and high jump in track … Coached in high school by Jamey DuBose.

Laquon Treadwell

WR | 6-3 | 198 | Crete-Monee HS | Crete, Ill.

HIGH SCHOOL: An Under Armour, USA Today, MaxPreps and SuperPrep All-America selection … Rated a 5-star recruit by Rivals.com, Scout.com, 247Sports.com and MaxPreps and the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver by Tom Lemming, Rivals.com and ESPN.com … Listed as the No. 5 overall recruit in the nation by Rivals.com, No. 6 by MaxPreps, No. 19 by ESPN.com, No. 28 by 247Sports.com and No. 30 by Scout.com … Regarded as Illinois’ top football recruit in 2013 … Had six catches for 46 yards in the Under Armour All-America Game … One of 16 final candidates for the 2013 U.S. Army Player of the Year … Named the Chicago Tribune Player of the Year, NWI Times Offensive Player of the Year and All-State first team as a senior … Led Crete-Monee to the Class 6A state title and hauled in 81 catches for 1,424 yards and 16 touchdowns, while rushing for 257 yards and seven more TDs on the ground … Also had 56 tackles and six interceptions on defense … Named the NWI Times Offensive Player of the Year, Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year and a first team All-State pick as a junior when he recorded 75 catches for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns … Also had 45 tackles, 10 TFLS and eight sacks on defense as a junior … A three-time All-Area selection … Had 58 catches for 811 yards and seven TDs as a sophomore … High school teammate of current Ole Miss defensive back Anthony Standifer … Coached in high school by Jerry Verde.

Laremy Tunsil

OL | 6-6 | 320 | Columbia HS | Lake City, Fla.

HIGH SCHOOL: A U.S. Army, USA Today, MaxPreps and SuperPrep All-America selection … A consensus 5-star recruit and No. 1-rated offensive tackle in the nation by all the major recruiting services … Rated the nation’s No. 3 overall recruit by 247Sports.com, No. 5 by ESPN.com, No. 7 by Scout.com and MaxPreps and No. 14 by Rivals.com … Listed as Florida’s top recruit by 247Sports.com and second-best by Rivals.com … Ranked No. 5 on the Orlando Sentinel’s Florida Top 100 and No. 1 on the paper’s North Florida Super60 … Florida Dairy Farmers Class 6A Player of the Year … First team Class 6A All-State pick by the Associated Press … Helped Columbia run for 275 yards per game en route to the Class 6A state quarterfinals … Associated Press All-State first team selection as a junior, as well … Coached in high school by Brian Allen.

Jordan Wilkins

RB | 6-1 | 210 | St. Benedict at Auburndale HS | Cordova, Tenn.

HIGH SCHOOL: A SuperPrep All-America selection … A consensus 4-star prospect by all the major recruiting services … Rated the No. 9 all-purpose back in the nation by 247Sports.com and the nation’s No. 10 big back by Tom Lemming … Listed as the 20th-best running back by Rivals.com and 21st by ESPN.com … A member of the ESPN 300 … Three-time Division 2-AA All-State selection by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association … Rushed for 1,041 yards and 14 touchdowns in just seven games as a senior before suffering a season-ending knee injury … An honorary selection to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl All-Star Game and City of Memphis All-Star Game … Rushed for 1,546 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior and was one of three finalists for the Division 2-AA Back of the Year … Also played basketball … Younger brother of Vanderbilt wide receiver Trey Wilkins … Coached in high school by Michael Davidson.

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Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong to enter NFL Draft

Jaelen Strong, Dominique Hatfield

Arizona State wide receiver Jaelen Strong announced Monday through the Devils’ sports information department that he will be playing his football as a professional in 2015 rather than return to school for his senior season.

“This has been one of the most difficult decisions of my life.  I’ve spoken to my family and we feel it is best for me to declare for the 2015 NFL Draft,” Strong said in a statement.

Strong was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award (given to Alabama’s Amari Cooper), a First Team All-Pac-12 performer and a member of five All-America teams this fall. The Philadelphia native was college football’s 15th-leading receiver with 75 grabs for 1,062 yards and 10 touchdowns despite missing Washington State and its 127th-rated pass defense in late November. His best game came against USC on Oct. 4 as he snared 10 receptions for 202 yards and three touchdowns, including a 46-yarder as time expired to lift the Sun Devils to a 38-34 win.

“Jaelen’s enormous impact was felt from the first day he stepped on the practice field with us more than 16 months ago. His work ethic, attention to detail and overall football IQ are just a few of his attributes that make him such a special talent,” said head coach Todd Graham.”It has been a great pleasure to watch him grow into the young man he has become – a leader off the field and a giver in his community.”

Strong earned Second Team All-Pac-12 honors as a sophomore in 2013 after collecting 75 receptions for 1,122 yards and seven scores.

The 6-3 pass catcher was Mel Kiper’s 17th-rated wide receiver in October.

Strong will close his college career in the Hyundai Sun Bowl against Duke on Saturday (2 p.m. ET, CBS).

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Colorado State reportedly close to hiring Mike Bobo as head coach

Colorado State lost one head coach to the SEC, so perhaps it is only fitting it might be finding its next head coach from the SEC. Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will reportedly be the new head coach once a deal can be finalized between Bobo and Colorado State.

The Denver Post reported Monday that final interviews between Colorado State officials, including university president Tony Frank, and Bobo were held Sunday. If all goes to plan, Bobo could be introduced as the new head coach as early as Tuesday.

Bobo’s offense at Georgia has consistently been in the top half of the SEC in scoring offense since he assumed the role of offensive coordinator in 2006. This season Georgia led the SEC in scoring offense (41.7 points per game). If Bobo is the new man in charge of the Colorado State football program, he will be stepping out of his element. The Georgia native played quarterback at Georgia and had been an assistant coach at Georgia for all but one season since 1998.

But the good news for Colorado State is their last coaching hire out of the SEC panned out pretty well.

Colorado State is replacing Jim McElwain as head coach. McElwain accepted a job offer to become the new head coach at Florida and did not coach the Rams in the Las Vegas Bowl.

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Miami Beach Bowl offers plenty of offense in first half, BYU leads Memphis

Miami Beach Bowl - BYU v Memphis

If you like offense, then the inaugural Miami Beach Bowl seems to have you entertained this Monday afternoon. Memphis and BYU put together a back-and-forth first quarter with over 300 yards of combined offense and 31 combined points. BYU leads Memphis at the half, 28-24.

BYU fumbled away the football on the game’s opening possession, which set Memphis up in great position at the BYU 35-yard line to open the scoring just three plays later with a Paxton Lynch touchdown pass to Keiwone Malone. BYU responded by driving 82 yards over five plays with BYU quarterback Christian Stewart tossing a 47-yard touchdown strike to Mitchell Juergens to tie things up.

We were just getting started.

Memphis went 58 yards and Lynch pushed one across the goal line from the one-yard line to regain the lead for Memphis. BYU answered, this time with Stewart connecting with Mitch Mathews for a 25-yard touchdown. Memphis later regained the lead with a 39-yard field goal from Jake Elliott. That helped give Memphis a 17-14 lead after one quarter of play.

Memphis extended the lead to 24-14 with another touchdown run by Lynch early in the second quarter, but BYU battled back. Stewart completed a pass down the right sideline to a back-peddling Jordan Leslie, who showed great concentration to grab the pass above his head and step back into the end zone with one foot before falling out of bounds. A video review upheld the touchdown, bringing BYU within three points of Memphis, 24-21.

BYU’s defense then came up with a big play on the ensuing possession by Memphis. On the second play from scrimmage, Alani Fua tipped a pass from Lynch and he kept his hands on the ball for the interception before returning the football 37 yards to set the Cougars up on offense from the Memphis 15-yard line. Paul Lasike eventually punched one in on the ground from three yards out to give BYU its first lead of the game in the final two minutes of the half, 28-24.

This could be an entertaining second half between BYU and Memphis if the offenses continue working like this.

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Virginia Tech inks defensive coordinator (Beamer’s successor?) Bud Foster to extension

North Carolina v Virginia Tech Getty Images

Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster was already the highest-paid assistant coach in the country, but the Hokies took another step toward securing their top assistant in Blacksburg on Monday. Foster has agreed to a five-year contract that will reportedly pay him a little more than $200,000 than his current salary. Andy Bitter of The Roanoke Times was first to report news of the contract, via Twitter.

Foster has been a name floating around various coaching rumors for a few years now, but with the new contract in Blacksburg it appears as though Virginia Tech is just making sure one of the top defensive coordinators leaves them. The Hokies could be lining Foster up for a potential coach-in-waiting situation under Frank Beamer.

Beamer, 68 years old, is obviously not going to be around as head coach forever, and his retirement could come anytime in the next few years. Foster is well-respected within the football program and Virginia Tech community. Many have suspected he could eventually be Beamer’s successor, and this new contract could make that more likely.

Foster’s defenses have traditionally been one of the best in the ACC. This year the Hokies ranked fifth in total defense in the ACC, but that is more a blip on the radar than anything else. The Hokies have been ranked second in the ACC in total defense six out of the last eight seasons. Foster has been on Beamer’s staff since 1987 and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 1995.

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Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen wins Maxwell Football Club’s coaching award

Dan Mullen

Following the most successful season in Mississippi State football program history, head coach Dan Mullen added a new honor to his bio. Mullen was named the George Munger Award winner Monday by the Maxwell Football Club, honoring the top college football coach.

Mississippi State went 10-2 in 2014, making a push for the SEC championship and a possible spot in the College Football Playoff. The Bulldogs may have fallen shy of that goal in the month of November, but that does not take away from the level of play performed by Mississippi State under Mullen. Mississippi State climbed from unranked to number one in the Associated Press poll in a shorter span than any other team in history. Mississippi State broke 22 single-season records along the way.

“Coach Mullen has engineered a tremendous season for the Mississippi State football program,” Maxwell Football Club Executive Director Mark Wolpert said in a released statement. “The team’s 10-2 record is a great testament to the hard work of Coach and his staff, and also to the dedication shown by the student-athletes involved in the football program at Mississippi State University.”

The George Munger Award is named after former University of Pennsylvania head coach George Munger. The award was replaced by the Joseph V. Paterno Award for the same honor, named after former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno. Following the Jerry Sandusky scandal in 2011, the Maxwell Football Club stripped Paterno’s name from the award and returned to the name of Munger.

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe was the 2013 Maxwell Football Club’s coach of the year. The last time the award went to a coach from the SEC was when Tennessee’s Phil Fulmer won the award in 1998. Mullen is just the fourth SEC coach (Auburn’s Terry Bowden in 1993 and Alabama’s Gene Stallings in 1992) to win the Maxwell’s collegiate coaching award since it was first presented in 1989 to Michigan’s Bo Schembechler.

Mullen will be presented the award during an awards gala put on by ther Maxwell Football Club on March 13, 2015 at the Tropicana Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. All of the Maxwell Football Club’s award winners will be honored at that time, including Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota (Maxwell Award) and Arizona’s Scooby Wright III (Chuck Bednarik Award).

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Christmas comes early for walk-on TE at Tennessee (video)

You can never get enough of this stuff in college football. For all the negative stories that come about, there are plenty of positive stories. This being the holiday season, we can never see enough of the good around the sport.

This takes us all to Tennessee, where Vols head coach Butch Jones gave walk-on tight end Alex Ellis the best present possible, a scholarship. Ellis has played in all 12 games this season and has six catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. The redshirt junior from Delaware may not have a significant impact on the field for the Vols, but his dedication and hard work has not gone unrecognized, nor unrewarded, by the Tennessee coaching staff.

Jones closed a team meeting by handing out presents to the hardest working player in bowl practices when he called Ellis down to receive his present.

Tennessee will face Iowa in the Taxslayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida on January 2, 2015.

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Texas still the most valuable football program, but lead narrows

University of Texas Introduces Charlie Strong Getty Images

The Texas Longhorns remain the most valuable football program in college football, despite seeing the value of the program dip from it’s estimated value from a year ago. The annual list of most valuable college football programs assembled by Forbes shows Texas is valued at $131 million, which is down from $139 million from 2013. While Texas is still the most valuable program in the land, other programs appear to be catching up.

Notre Dame is the second-most valuable program according to Forbes with a value of $122 million. That is about $5 million from 2013 due to an extended contract with NBC as well as new revenue coming in through the College Football Playoff. Notre Dame receives $2.3 million from the new playoff format annually, compared to its $1.9 million paycheck from the old BCS. Notre Dame also started a new scheduling agreement with the ACC to provide not only for more stable scheduling but for more marketable match-ups to go with its traditional rivalries.

Michigan followed Notre Dame with a value of $117 million. Two SEC schools followed; Alabama ($107 million) and LSU ($103 million). The rest of the top 10 programs are;

6. Auburn ($97 million)
7. Tennessee ($94 million)
8. Oklahoma ($93 million)
9. Ohio State ($87 million)
10. Georgia ($83 million)

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Attorney for Jameis Winston comes out swinging

Jameis Winston

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was cleared by a university code of conduct hearing on Sunday. The ruling means Winston will not be punished by the school for any alleged misconduct in violation of school code stemming from a previous sexual encounter with a woman. This also means Winston will be eligible to play for Florida State in the upcoming Rose Bowl against Oregon, the College Football Playoff semifinal.

With the ruling now made official, the attorney for Winston, David Cornwell, is sharing his reaction and thoughts on the entire process, and he has come out laying haymakers at anyone who may have been against he and his client from the start. Cornwell was a guest on the Erik Kuselias Show on NBC Sports Radio Monday morning, where he never held back. Cornwell took aim at the accuser in the case, calling her a liar and accusing the accuser’s family of demanding to be paid.

Below is the entire transcript as provided by the Erik Kuselias Show.

Erick Kuselias: Major Harding said, “I don’t find him more credible, I don’t find her more credible. She has to have a burden of proof of being more credible and she’s not, so I’m sending everybody home.” Do you agree with that reading or did you read it differently?

David Cornwell: That’s precisely what he wrote. I don’t find one story more persuasive than the other. She has the burden of showing at minimum 51 percent. I’m not surprised because she adjusted her story for the 7th time and moved the alleged rape out of the bedroom where one of the teammates testified that it appeared to be consensual, and into a bathroom where nobody else was present of claimed to observe the act. This was the 7th change in her story and in a he-said-she-said case, the best the accused can hope for is 50-50, right?

EK: Is the single biggest change in her story that she changes her account of the location of where she claimed the alleged attack occurred?

Unfortunately no. There are numerous other areas where she’s changed her story.  Frankly, you know what? There are no winners in this and I feel sorry for this young lady. I think that she was abused by her lawyers. To walk her into this hearing room and say that she suffered from traumatic memory loss without offering any evidence of a physical or mental exam, let alone any expert to suggest that there is such a trauma that enables you to have a better memory two years after an event than you do 20 hours after it. I think in many respects Justice Harding was charitable. Our brief lays out in painstaking detail that number of times that she was apparently coached to change her story, so…as I say I don’t think there are any winners in this. I feel sorry for this young lady to the extent that she was taken through the ringers in a process that was inevitable once she was coached to lie.

Her aunt demanded 7 million dollars from us, I mean, what was this about? What was this about? Why do they think it way okay to do this to a 20 year old college student? To Antonor and Loretta’ son – because he played football?

EK interrupts:  Do you think this is over now? Or do you think Jamies is still going to have to continue on through this process, either through an appeal at Florida State or a civil suit?

DC: EK, I’m going to tell you something – I’m done guessing. I’m done predicting. Because of your background as a lawyer you know, at the water cooler you can flip coins and take guesses, but when you put on your lawyering hat your job is to confront the problem that you’re presented with. So I’m just going to deal with things as they arrive, but I’ll tell you this: These two lawyers that arrived after we rejected the 7 million dollar, uh, demand… they’re not lawyers they’re investors. They’re (unintelligible), they invested in this case, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they tricked themselves into thinking that the return on their investment comes with the filing of a civil complaint. I’ll tell you, with the filing of a civil complaint comes a counter claim against this young lady, unfortunately. Not out of anger, but out of necessity, comes a new complaint against these lawyers because they  made statements that are not protected by the litigation privilege in viciously attacking a 20 year old college student and we’re going to go to their pockets to get damages for that.

EK: Are you saying if she sues you, you will counterclaim against her and her attorneys, or are you going to do that anyway?

DC: No, we have no intention of doing it anyway, but of course, and you can explain to your listeners when our call is done, there’s not a chance we’re going into a courtroom without counter-claims. But separate and apart, what I’m telling you is that if she sues us, we will start a new lawsuit against Mr. Clune and Ms. Carroll.

It was at this point the discussion turned to the media coverage of Winston and the case. As you can imagine, Cornwell was not happy.

EK: All right, I understand you’re an advocate for your client…What is the biggest misconception that I would have if I were just watching the media coverage?

DC: You tell me. I can’t prioritize them, man. I can’t give you a list that says there’s the single greatest one. There is a list of about – if we get the authority, or if we’re challenged, we’ll release our brief and we’ll invite the public to read it and they will see. Do you know that this young lady, after claiming that this man assaulted her, sat there and watched the Clemson game his first year as a starter? And tweeted about it? Tweeted about it? About his successful play against Clemson? I mean, nobody knows about that because the media doesn’t cover the other side of the story.

 

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Not going anywhere: Matt Campbell reportedly re-ups with Toledo

Matt Campbell AP

Toledo coach Matt Campbell’s name has popped up in connection to the vacant job at Pitt, but he can reportedly be taken off that list.

According to the Toledo Blade’s Nicholas Piotrowicz, Campbell has signed a contract extension with Toledo that’ll be formally announced later Monday. The 35-year-old Campbell has led the Rockets to a 25-13 record since taking over for Tim Beckman for the 2011 Military Bowl, which the Rockets won.

Under Campbell, Toledo went 9-4 in 2012, 7-5 in 2013 and 8-4 in 2014, with a Jan. 4 GoDaddy Bowl date with Arkansas State finishing off this season. Toledo even cracked the AP top 25 for a spell in 2012.

Per Piotrowicz, Campbell earned a base salary of $285,000 under his old deal. Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck recently became the highest-paid coach in the MAC, with his base salary checking in at $800,000.

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The meaning behind P.J. Fleck’s ‘Row Your Boat’ mantra at WMU

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Western Michigan didn’t have itself a great weekend, but a 38-24 loss to Air Force shouldn’t put a damper on what was an incredible turnaround in Kalamazoo.

Under the watch of its 34-year-old coach, P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan went from 1-11 to 8-5 and has built some strong recruiting momentum that should have fellow MAC schools on notice. He signed a six-year extension earlier this month and now is the conference’s highest paid coach.

Fleck, though, is probably most well known for a video during his first year as WMU’s coach that produced this gif.

But “Row Your Boat” is much more than a college football Twitter meme. ESPN.com’s Matt Fortuna, in his excellent feature on Fleck, has the coach explain it.

The story is loaded with observations and anecdotes that’ll endear you to Fleck — like his three framed photos of John F. Kennedy hanging beneath the words “If only…” — but this may be the best:

A slide on the PowerPoint presentation behind him shows a mountain with the team’s 2014 opponents lined up in chronological order, from the bottom to the top. Another slide offers all of the weekly nicknames attached to 2014’s schedule, also known as “How Mountain.” Among them: HOWkies (Virginia Tech), ToLeadHOW (Toledo), HOWcoming (Homecoming vs. Ohio).

Fleck rattles them off, punctuating IdaHOW (Idaho) to his assembled audience: “You-da-how …”

“WE-DA-HOW!” the players shout back in unison.

“It’s an active HOWcano,” Fleck says, and everyone cannot help but laugh. “What’s going to happen at 11 a.m. on Black Friday? The shoppers will hear what’s happening at Waldo Stadium.”

Go read the story, and feel free to hope your Power Five program of choice hires Fleck in the next couple years.

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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 22 & 23 Viewer’s Guide

Connecticut v Memphis

Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 22 AND 23 bowl menu, which features one game Monday and two more on Tuesday.

WHO: BYU (8-4) vs. Memphis (9-3)
WHAT: The inaugural Miami Beach Bowl
WHERE: Marlins Park, Miami, Fla.
WHEN: Dec. 22 at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Under the direction of Justin Fuente, Memphis went from a 3-9 disaster in 2013 to the 9-3 AAC co-champions in 2014.  The Tigers finished up 2014 riding a six-game winning streak, with five of those wins coming by double digits.  For BYU, its season can be broken down into thirds: unbeaten first and last thirds, winless middle third.  Two of those four losses in the heart of the season, though, came by a mere seven points, including an overtime loss on the road to AAC co-champion UCF.  Three of the Cougars wins, meanwhile, came against Power Five conference members (Texas, Virginia and Cal).  The Tigers’ most impressive performance of the season may have been one of its three losses, a 42-35 setback to UCLA in Pasadena in Week 2.  All in all, this should be one of the better non-marquee matchups of the 2014-15 bowl season.
THE LINE: BYU, +1
THE PREDICTION: Memphis 27, BYU 24

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WHO: Marshall (12-1) vs. Northern Illinois (11-2)
WHAT: The inaugural Boca Raton Bowl
WHERE: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Fla.
WHEN: Dec. 23 at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

__________

WHO: Navy (7-5) vs. San Diego State (7-5)
WHAT: The 10th San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
WHERE: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Cal.
WHEN: Dec. 23 at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: San Diego State is 13th among Group of Five teams in stopping the run at 145.6 yards per game.  Navy, meanwhile, is third out of all 128 FBS teams in rushing yards per game at 345.1.  The two teams had two common opponents in 2014: Air Force and San Jose State.   SDSU went 2-0 vs. those two (30-14 over AF Week 13, 38-7 over SJSU Week 14) while Navy went 1-1 (41-31 win over SJSU Week 9, 30-21 loss to AF Week 6).  And then there’s this: 35-14.  That was the score of the Aztecs’ 2010 Poinsettia Bowl matchup with the Midshipmen.  What does it all mean?  I have no clue.  I’m just looking forward to watching yet another service academy in the postseason.  And yet another opponent trying to stop its version of the triple-option.
THE LINE: Navy, +3
THE PREDICTION: Navy 41, San Diego State 34

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Report: Texas A&M reached out to LSU DC John Chavis

LSU v Washington Getty Images

Texas A&M is currently without a defensive coordinator, a fact that may have cost the Aggies the nation’s top linebacker prospect and a five-star defensive tackle. Head coach Kevin Sumlin fired Mark Snyder on Nov. 28, and with a holiday week upon us and the Aggies’ Liberty Bowl date approaching, it now appears likely the one month mark will pass before Snyder’s replacement is hired.

That’s not to say Sumlin has sat on his hands, though.

Sumlin chased LeBron-in-a-headset free agent Will Muschamp, and Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and Florida’s D.J. Durkin were also reportedly on the Aggie wish list as well.

On Sunday night, a report emerged out of Baton Rouge through The Advocate that Texas A&M has reached out to LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis.

Chavis has coordinated the Bayou Bengals’ defense for the past six seasons and is regarded as one of the very best in the business. Since his arrival in 2009, LSU has ranked 15th, 22nd, second, seventh, 27th and 18th nationally in yards per play allowed. Before arriving in Baton Rouge, Chavis served as defensive coordinator under Philip Fulmer at Tennessee from 1995-08.

Most importantly for Sumlin, Chavis’ defenses have completely flummoxed Texas A&M’s offenses in their three meetings since the Aggies joined the SEC in 2012. LSU has won each of the three games while holding the Texas A&M to less than 20 points and more than 100 yards below their season average. Nabbing Chavis would be a major coup for Sumlin, bringing instant credibility to a defense that last in the SEC in total defense this season while simultaneously weakening a division rival.

Of course, they’d have to get him first. Chavis earns the third-highest salary of all college football assistants at just north of $1.3 million according to USA Today. (Snyder earned $708,000.) His contract expires after this season, and LSU has offered him a extension that Chavis has yet to sign, according to The Advocate.

However, when you’re blowing up half your stadium as part of a near half-billion dollar renovation project, in the long run busting the budget by a few hundred thousand dollars for an elite defensive coordinator is much less costly than putting a mediocre product on the field.

Texas A&M concludes its season in the Liberty Bowl against West Virginia on Dec. 29 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN), while LSU wraps up against Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN).

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Ole Miss QB signee Chad Kelly arrested after scuffle with police

Chad Kelly

Chad Kelly was dismissed at Clemson this April for what Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney deemed “conduct detrimental to our program” but, after a season spent leading East Mississippi Community College to a national title, reclaimed his major college football destiny by signing with Ole Miss earlier this month.

For now.

Back home in his native Buffalo, Kelly was arrested early Sunday morning after fighting with bouncers at a local watering hole and later scuffling with police, reports the Buffalo News. According to Buffalo police, Kelly refused to leave an establishment known as Encore and punched a bouncer in the face. He then took on two bouncers and, according to the police report, said, “I’m going to go to my car and get my AK-47 and spray this place.”

Police officers later stopped a 2005 Ford F-150 pickup, where Kelly was a passenger.

“Kelly was forcibly removed from the vehicle, officers said,” writes the Buffalo News. “Police said Kelly kicked and tried to swing at officers as they removed him from the vehicle. They said he resisted getting into a patrol vehicle and struggled with staff at central booking.”

Kelly has been charged with third-degree assault, second-degree harassment, second-degree menacing, resisting arrest, fourth-degree criminal mischief, second-degree obstructing governmental administration and, along with a friend involved in the melee, third-degree criminal trespass. All charges are misdemeanors or violations, and Kelly has been released without bail.

“It remains to be seen who was the aggressor and thankfully it was a scuffle where no one was hurt,” Kelly’s attorney Thomas J. Eoannou said.

Kelly is the nephew of former Buffalo Bills great and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. He was named the New York State Sportswriters Association Class AA Player of the Year in 2011 and was regarded as the nation’s top junior college quarterback after throwing for 3,905 yards and 47 touchdowns this fall.

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Mark Richt raids Nick Saban’s staff for strength coach

Mark Richt

They say the strength coach is the most important hire a head coach will make. Between the end of spring ball and the beginning of fall camp, the strength coach is the main point of contact players have with their football program on a daily basis. With longtime strength coach Joe Tereshinski stepping down late last month, Mark Richt has raided Nick Saban‘s strength staff at Alabama to fill his all-important head strength coach role, as Georgia announced the hiring of Mark Hocke on Sunday evening.

“Mark received some outstanding recommendations from those in the industry and is known for his high energy, ability to motivate and relate to his athletes, as well as develop them mentally, physically, spiritually and socially,” Richt said in a statement.

Hocke served as an assistant strength and conditioning coach since 2009. At Georgia, he’ll join a growing roster of Bulldog coaches with Crimson ties (get it?), including defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt (a former Alabama assistant), linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer (formerly Alabama’s director of player development) and offensive line coach Will Friend (a former Alabama player).

Hocke replaces Tereshinksi, the Bulldogs’ head strength coach since 2011 and a member of the Georgia program since 1982.

Prior to his arrival in Tuscaloosa, Hocke worked as an assistant coach and the head strength and conditioning coach at Jesuit High School in New Orleans.

Hocke will join the program in Charlotte before its date with No. 20 Louisville in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 30. “This will allow him to be better prepared as we begin our training program in January,” Richt said.

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Gus Malzahn, new Auburn DC Will Muschamp haven’t discussed staff changes yet

In addition to the reported $1.6 million salary, one of the things that drew Will Muschamp to Auburn’s open defensive coordinator slot was the freedom granted by head coach Will Muschamp to select his own staff to work under him.

And while staff changes are likely coming for a defense that ranked 74th in yards per play allowed and 61st in scoring, they won’t happen before the Outback Bowl.

“We have not talked about it,” Malzahn told AL.com. “We’re just trying to give these guys the best plan to win the bowl game. We’ll talk about that at a later date.”

It has been widely speculated within the industry that Muschamp would like to bring Florida defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson with him to The Plains, but a spot is not open for him at this time. Safeties coach Charlie Harbison is set to serve as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator in the Outback Bowl. And it’s possible that a few Gators assistants could look to follow their former boss to Auburn after new Florida head coach plucked Geoff Collins away from Mississippi State to coordinate his defense.

In the meantime, though, rival recruiters are pouncing as the Auburn defensive staff remains in flux. Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College safety Tony Bridges chose Ole Miss over Auburn in part because of the uncertainty around the Tigers’ staff.

“(Muschamp) looked at tape of me and said ‘I really need you,’ this and that. I have love for them because they showed me love, so I can’t say nothing bad about them,” Bridges told the Sun Herald before inking with the Rebels on Wednesday. “That being said, it was too late. I didn’t know which way the defensive coaches, like (cornerbacks coach) Melvin Smith, was he going to be there or not?”

No. 19 Auburn will meet No. 18 Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl at noon ET on New Year’s Day (ESPN2).

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